Remedy for the Malady of Terrorism

The most important challenge in the 21st century in Africa has been posed by the terrorist acts. Terrorism is a malady that requires a remedy as terrorists respect neither frontiers nor boundaries. Terrorism is ‘violent tactics’ strategy, being used increasingly to influence and change political, social and economic policies of those in authority.

As a rule, terrorists commit individual acts of an intentionally provocative nature, which may include threats of murder or the assassination of state and political figures; the seizure of hostages or potentially hazardous facilities; bombings; or the release of poisons, radioactive substances, or biologically active agents.

Parts of Africa have become battlefronts in the fight against terrorism by jihadists and other extremists. The breakdown of law and order in Libya, in particular, has allowed the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization to capture pockets of territory and gain a foothold on the continent.

To the south, another violent group, Boko Haram, has killed thousands in Nigeria — and kidnapped hundreds of girls — and aligned itself with ISIS. In Somalia, al Shabab, an affiliate of al Qaeda, has launched attacks in neighboring countries and is trying to prevent Somalia from re-establishing a functioning government.

Meanwhile, thousands of Africans are fleeing to Europe to escape violence or poverty, creating a refugee crisis of epic proportions.

Boko Haram, a Terrorist Group in Nigeria

Boko Haram fighters

The Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad) and commonly known as Boko Haram is a Nigeria-based terror group that seeks to rid the country of Western and secular institutions and to resuscitate the Kanem-Bornu caliphate that once ruled over modern-day Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.

The group was founded by a cleric named Ustaz Muhammed Yusuf in 2002. Yusuf established the Ibn Taymiyyah Masjid mosque in Maiduguri and developed a massive following among disgruntled youth in the area. Many of these followers went on to become Boko Haram militants. Boko Haram is a phrase in Hausa, the dominant language in northern Nigeria, which means “Western education is forbidden”.

Late Muhammad Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram

In 2009, Yusuf was killed by Nigerian security forces and Abubakar Shekau became the leader of Boko Haram. Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has grown more violent and has acquired a notoriety for mass killings.

In addition to targeting Christians, who represent approximately 50 percent of the Nigerian population, Boko Haram also attacks Muslim civilians outside of the organization (who are, by virtue of that fact, regarded as infidels).

Since 2009, Boko Haram has carried out a regular string of attacks against Nigerian security forces and civilians. The group has killed more than 30,000 people in its effort to establish an Islamic caliphate. In August 2011, Boko Haram carried out its first attack against the West, killing 23 people in a suicide car bombing outside of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.

In April 2014, Boko Haram gained international reputation for abducting more than 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, 80 miles south of Maiduguri, and herded them onto buses and drove into the forests. With support from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Buhari’s government has secured the release 107 of the kidnapped Chibok girls.

Nigeria continues to experience attacks at the hands of Boko Haram and its ISIS-endorsed offshoot, ISIS in West Africa (ISWA). Although the groups share common roots, they branch off on the issue of targeting Muslim civilians. Under Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram continues to target Muslims in suicide bomb attacks at crowded marketplaces in northeast Nigeria.

Abubakar Shekau, the factional leader of Boko Haram

Boko Haram conscripted thousands of boys and girls, many of who are trained in boot camps in northeast Nigerian and neighboring Cameroon. The UNICEF reports that one in five “suicide bombers” used by Boko Haram has been a child.

Between 3 and 7 January 2015—in Boko Haram’s deadliest attack to date— insurgents attacked the town of Baga and slaughtered more than 2,000 people. During the attack, the jihadists shot indiscriminately at fleeing residents and destroyed more than 3,700 buildings. On 10 January 2015, the group allegedly remotely detonated explosives at the Monday market in Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno State, killing 19 people.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Boko Haram and its offshoots are responsible for the displacement of 2.5 million Nigerians, with approximately 200,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Book Haram was declared terrorist group by US in 2013.

Factors Responsible for Terrorism

  1. Manipulation of religion. There is no doubt, those who took up the part of extremism sow its seed from manipulating and distorting religious teachings.
  2. Disconnect between government and the governed. The growing gap between the leader and the led has created a vacuum, and has made it possible for violent extremists to take over that vacuum and propagate their murderous ideology.
  3. Prevalence of social and economic injustices. What you refuse to invest in social security, you must spend on national security.
  4. The global terror epidemic – terror contagion. Terrorism in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria spreads its cancerous effect destroying lives and property.
  5. The collapse of education. Normal schools that should have provided meaningful education to our children have collapsed, and as such people who cannot find good place to learn, they will go and learn from bad places.
  6. Massive unemployment. Many of our young people that ought to live decent and responsible life are roaming about in the street. People like these are vulnerable and represent one of the most potent threats to our collective existence, our unity, our peace and our democracy.
  7. The worsening of environmental conditions in Africa have increased the rate of violent extremism and terrorism. Desertification and the shrinking of the Chad Basin have significantly affected the means of livelihood of tens of millions of people in that region. There is less arable land and grazing land. This has immensely contributed to the increasing number of unemployed youths. As a result, many have turned to joining various terror groups. Others go into cattle rustling.
  8. Proliferation of arms and unguarded boarders. It has become easy for arms to move around our continent, so accessible that our boarders are porous and as such extremists find it easier to pick up guns and ammunition to fight.
  9. Economic collapse of the Africa. Most of our industries have closed down. Our economy is as arid as our weather. Some of our states depend on foreign loans and assistance to execute capital projects. We have neglected agriculture, we refuse to explore solid minerals, we refuse to use our power, which is the wealth of people we have to advance our continent.
  10. Human right abuses and extra-judicial killings. If you violate the fundamental rights of your citizens, all you are encouraging is act of lawlessness because lawlessness begets lawlessness.
  11. Lack of unity and ethnic crisis in Africa. Disunity in Africa occasioned by intra- fighting between ethnic groups and believes have created a vacuum.

Effects of Terrorism

  1. Loss of lives and properties.
  2. Besides the injuries and deaths immediately brought about by terrorist attacks, survivors often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and major depression.
  3. The economy suffers an immediate impact due to building and infrastructure damage, but it also suffers long term effects from trauma to financial markets, a rise in spending on security and defense, and impact on supply chains of enhanced security at land, sea and air border crossings.
Boko Haram fighters

Solutions to Terrorism

  1. Equipping the military and police for retaliation and defense including the passing of legislation that targets terrorists.
  2. Deportation of unregistered aliens and improving the prevention of terrorist travel.
  3. Creation of new agencies or enhancement of existing agencies to screen mail and other forms of communication and to guard essential infrastructures.
  4. Bolstering education and increasing employment opportunities.
  5. Promoting positive role models through the media, and building more effective avenues for civic participation among youth.
  6. Recognizing the impact of technology on human socialization and empowerment.
  7. Keeping a check on extremist clerics and encouraging religious leaders to pre-empt and respond to extremism.
  8. Stopping the flow of terrorist funds: Stopping the rich countries that fund construction of religious schools without proper background checks.
  9. Preventing the creation of terrorist havens and addressing the threat posed by state-sponsored terrorism.
  10. Creating a lawful detainment framework for the incapacitation and lawful Interrogation of terrorists.
  11. Developing a counter-extremism to overcome violent extremism through re-engineering of minds of individuals by taking them away from the culture of violence and bringing them closer to the culture of peace.
  12. Enhancing Domestic and International information-sharing efforts.
  13. Under-development of Africa by previous administrations. It is very clear that governments in the past have not used the opportunity of power to educate the region, to develop the region, to lift their people out of poverty. So, there was irresponsibility in governance at that time.
  14. Preventing terrorism before it occurs based on the concept of “DID” – Detect, Intercept and Deter.
  15. Eliminating impunity and ensuring that all those who participate, support, finance and facilitate terrorists acts, whether directly or indirectly, are investigated, prosecuted and punished to the limit allowed by the law.
  16. International cooperation including mutual legal assistance to meet the shortfalls and disparities in states’ capabilities. Cooperation in the areas of intelligence, investigation, prosecution and counter-terrorism.
Nigerian troops

Conclusion

African countries must implement sustainable solutions as listed above. Africa needs to give a different approach to ending terrorism, military is good, however, with well educated population, good governance, cooperation and glowing economy, terrorism will be eradicated.